The heart of any story, whatever art form or medium it is told in, is the characters. Something happens to someone, and they react to it somehow. They change; they don’t change; they live; they die… In my work as a storyteller, when I get stuck, when I hit a place where I can’t figure out what happens next, it is usually because I don’t know the characters well enough to know what they will say or do. The solution is usually to take
time out, explore the characters, find out more about them, and when I come back, the next step in the story is obvious.
So, I’ve been asking the cast to do a lot of character work in rehearsals. We often start working with having everyone get into character and just walk around. I ask them to talk to each other – sometimes about things related to the play, sometimes not. One day they had to talk to each other about their favorite place on the island. Another day to discuss their favorite event in the Olympics (which, of course, meant they had to think what
event their character would choose as their favorite. Can’t grab your copy of Shakespeare and flip through it for the answer! Have to know your character well enough to figure it out.) When we went to Arsenal Park, everyone had to wander around in character and find the spot in the park that their character was most attracted to.
I have been fascinated by what comes out of this. I love listening in to the conversations – no one ever has any trouble speaking in character about whatever. It has been particularly fun to give characters who do not interact in the play the chance to talk to each other. We have found out a lot about the relationships between Prospero’s three daughters, by having them talk with each other. Or, in some cases, having one character refuse to talk to the other two. We have found out things about characters that have changed the way I want to stage some scenes. When we explored Arsenal Park, for example, we discovered that Miranda likes to be able to see everything going on around her, but also to be able to duck safely out of sight if needed. So maybe we can’t start a scene with Miranda sitting out in the open where anyone could sneak up on her. We found out that Ariel loves to be up as high as possible (makes sense for a spirit of the air), so now I’m looking for trees and other high spots that we can have her climb and perch on.
We are also starting to develop different takes on some characters – Adam Huff, who plays Sebastian and Stephano, will be leaving after the first two weekends. Other members of the cast will be picking up those roles – and we are starting to explore how their versions of the characters differ from Adam’s versions in some key ways.
I love watching this cast really bring these characters to life in such fascinating ways – and can’t wait for the audience to see them as well. I wonder what Caliban thinks about the Steelers?